Is Acai Berry Good For You?
If you are a little bit more interested in what you are putting inside of your body, you must have heard about this product by now.
It has been a super food apparently helping with various goals ranging from weight loss to skin improvement.
That being said, it’s a fruit so I’m sure it contains many vitamins and offers a lot of benefits but is it really that magical?
What is it?
As the name suggests, it’s a berry looking fruit, around an inch in size, which grows on a palm tree from Central and South America. It resembles something between a blueberry and a grape apart from the fact that it has a tough skin. The berry has a yellow flesh surrounding a big seed which, technically, make it more similar to an apricot rather than a berry but I guess the name has stuck now, so there you go.
Acai often accompany various meals in Central and South American cuisine. They are often soaked in water to soften the hard skin and then they are mashed into a paste. You have probably never seen them fresh because their shelf life is very short so they are usually exported in the form of powder or juice.
Sometimes we can find them in other food product as colouring due to their dark purple colour.
Acai became incredibly popular in recent years, together with other super foods like Maca, Matcha green tea and others.
We cannot deny the fact that they are quite nutrient – dense but being higher in fat than carbohydrates also makes them a little weird fruit. 5% of the nutrients account for fat which, for fruit, is very high. Just to compare, an apple’s fat content is 0.2%, strawberries are 0.3%, grapes 0.4%, you get the picture.
What do the different colours in fruit and veg mean?
The main benefit of Acai might not surprise you since it’s basically the same one that helped our common blueberries become incredibly popular. They contain antioxidants Anthocyanins which give the fruit its deep purple colour. You might have heard the advice to eat more dark coloured plants and it’s because of this compound. Fruit and vegetables have an amazing way of telling us what’s in the and what are they good for, and they are doing this just by being of a certain colour 🙂 I find this fascinating 🙂
Just a quick example:
- Red – this one is really easy to remember because it means they are good for your heart 🙂 Apart from that, they also improve brain function and, apparently, lower the risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Orange – orange colour is usually a very good indicator of folate which is a vitamin B9. It’s incredibly important during pregnancy because the deficiency of this vitamin can cause neural tube defects during baby’s development. It’s a group of birth defects that can show in different ways but it usually involves brain or spine. They are very serious and, if they don’t lead to death, cause significantly shortened lifespan (30 – 40 years). Lack of B9 can also cause extreme fatigue, headaches and it has been connected to tinnitus, which was a very interesting finding for me, I have suffered from tinnitus since 2012. Orange coloured fruit and veg are often high in Vitamin C, too.
- Yellow – means high in Vitamin C which does so much for us 🙂 It helps with fast healing of cuts, aids Iron absorption, assists mucous membranes to work effectively (especially when we suffer from cold), prevents inflammation, improves circulation and loads more.
- Green – green stuff is good for everything! 🙂 It’s rich in fat soluble vitamins A, D,E and K, the above mentioned B9, vitamin C, potassium (important for working muscles), calcium (bone health) and loads of others.
- Dark Colours – the deeper the colour is, the richer the given vegetable is in nutrients, specifically in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The type of colour is not that important, it’s all about the deep dark hue which can be anything from dark red (beets) to purple (blueberries). Particularly the purple fruit and veg is very rich in, already mentioned, anthocyanins which are compounds only found in plants. They are known to protect cells from aging and from chronic disease. Acai falls into this group.
Obsession with Antioxidants
You hear the word every day and not just in connection to food, antioxidants found their way to cosmetics, too.
So what are they exactly?
In order to explain what they are, I have to tell you something about free radicals. I read quite a lengthy medical article on
National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website to properly understand the system and I will try to break it down in a little shorter way 🙂 If you, however, want to read the whole article, feel free to check it out HERE. It’s a good read if you are interested in Biology.
Oxygen is one of the most important molecules for life and it comes as no surprise that it’s involved in many bodily functions and chemical reactions. When cells use oxygen to generate energy, free radicals are created as a consequence of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production which is the only fuel molecule human body recognises.
Free radicals are a molecule with an odd number of electrons which makes it unstable. They play a dual role as both toxic and beneficial compounds and the delicate balance between the effects is clearly important. At low or moderate levels, free radicals have beneficial effects on cells and immune function.
Human body produces both free radicals and antioxidants from normal cell metabolism. When an overload of free radicals cannot gradually be destroyed, their accumulation in the body generates oxidative stress, a process that can destroy cell structures if it isn’t stopped by antioxidants. Oxidative stress plays a major part in development of chronic illnesses such as:
- Autoimmune disorders (arthritis – joint inflammation)
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Neurological conditions (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, memory loss, depression, etc.)
- Pulmonary diseases (asthma, etc.)
The body has several mechanisms to fight oxidative stress by producing antioxidants, either through the body metabolism (melatonin, Coenzyme Q10) or externally supplied through foods (vitamins C + E, carotenoids, omega 3 + 6). The roles of antioxidants are to neutralize the excess of free radicals, to protect the cells against their toxic effects.
When an antioxidant destroys a free radical, this antioxidant itself becomes oxidized. Therefore, the antioxidant resources must be constantly restored in the body.
Under normal circumstances, human body can keep the balance fairly well but unfortunately we can be exposed to free radicals in another way and that’s smoking, air and water pollution, alcohol, heavy metals, cooking (smoking fat) and many others. That’s why free radicals are mentioned everywhere these days. We are basically exposed to them all the time and our body has to work very hard to get rid of them, that’s why it’s very important to introduce these dark coloured purple fruit and veg into your diet and if you are interested in doing so but don’t like the natural source of antioxidants (aubergine, blueberries, plums, etc.), you can always get a pouch of Acai and add it to smoothies or porridge.
Main Acai Benefits
#1 It’s a very powerful antioxidant
As I have covered this above, I will only mention a couple of facts here. This is not just a super food hoax, Acai truly is a very powerful tool to fight free radicals. Just to compare it with blueberries, Acai contains three times more antioxidants than blueberries per 100g.
#2 Acai may help to lower cholesterol levels
According to THIS study that was conducted on 10 overweight adults (BMI > 25 so not obese!), drinking a smoothie with added Acai pulp twice daily for 1 month, the total levels of cholesterol (LDL, HDL) were lower at the end of the 30 day trial.
However, more research is needed in this are, there is not enough additional studies that support this conclusion but hopefully this is just the matter of time.
Another interesting fact about Acai is that it contains sterols which are well known in plant world to prevent human body to absorb cholesterol. These compounds are found in many plants and that’s why adopting a plant based diet as a remedy to high cholesterol might have some benefits. Other foods rich in sterols are:
- Fruit and veg
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts) and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)
- Whole grains
- Steroles fortified foods are available (margarine, orange juice)
#3 May prevent cancer
Since cancer and free radicals damage is closely connected, this is not a surprise.
There is more research needed in this area, concrete studies are missing but we DO 100% KNOW that Acai, and other plants, do fight free radicals and free radicals may cause cancer so it’s up to you to your opinion in this area. I will obviously keep an eye on the journals, I quite like browsing them for new stuff out there and hopefully some new interesting study will pop up and I can share it with you guys.
I think we can’t ignore the amount of free radicals floating around in the form of pollution, smoke and bad diet.
I do use Acai, it makes a killer smoothie bowl with an amazing colour 🙂
The pouch lasts forever since you only need a teaspoon or so.
If you live in a city where pollution is an issue or if you think your diet still have some room for improvement, give it a go and see how you feel. Also, I think it cannot hurt people with high cholesterol and if that was my case, I’d rather try natural ways first before pills.
Where to Buy?
- Amazon – £8.99/100g
- Revolution Foods – £14.99/100g – often have up to 40% sales so definitely check it out. They run a no plastic scoop policy, that’s why I prefer these
- Vitally Vegan – if you are interested in one product that does it all, this is a brand that does vegan protein powders with Acai already in it (along with other good stuff like Maca root). They also run a zero plastic policy!
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